Philip Roth and the "Jewish Body"

Lander, Joshua (2019) Philip Roth and the "Jewish Body". PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency, American and European readers turned to Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (2004) in an attempt to understand how such a tyrant could have risen to power. Trump’s ascension, combined with Roth’s death last year, generated a renewed interest in the author’s literature and his explorations of what it means to be an American.
This thesis foregrounds Roth’s examinations of Americanness by thematising the “Jewish body” in his fictions. I explore how Jewishness has been racially codified through the body, and how Roth’s fiction subversively responds to and resists antisemitic racial binaries that sought to distinguish the “Jew” from the “American”. In its investigation of the “Jewish body”, the thesis examines how Jews in America were re-racialized after the Second World War and the Shoah, noting the ways in which Jews’ entry into “whiteness” affected conceptualizations of Jewish gender differences.
In its discussion of race and gender, the thesis confronts Roth’s problematic representations of women and the masculinist focus underpinning the author’s fictions. In doing so, the thesis expands beyond Roth’s treatment of masculinity and male desire that has dominated Roth scholarship. Instead, I bring into focus Roth’s representation of Jewish matriarchs, nationality, sexuality, and race, using the “Jewish body” as the thematic kernel to interlink each chapter. The thesis argues Roth undermines racism and antisemitism, and considers to what extent the author risks replicating the sexism underpinning America’s racist social structures.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Philip Roth, antisemitism, Jewish identity, body, race.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Spiro, Dr. Mia and Gair, Dr. Chris
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Dr Joshua Lander
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-75172
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2019 13:33
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2020 21:54
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.75172
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/75172

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